Nigeria now has an implementable policy on environment, courtesy of the validation of a draft document by multi-faceted groups of stakeholders. The new national policy incorporates and consolidates all aspects of Nigeria’s environment. It is a single document from which states government are expected to draw their action plans. Bennett Oghifo reports
For two days last week, various groups of stakeholder dissected a draft document on Nigeria’s Policy on Environment, presented by Professor Emmanuel Oladipo, the lead consultant engaged by the Federal Ministry of Environment, at a stakeholders’ validation workshop in Abuja, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The groups worked on aspects of the draft document and came up with a concise document that would be Nigeria’s Policy on Environment.
Nigeria formulated its first national policy on the environment in 1991. It was revised in 1999, and 17 years later, it is due for another revision in order to capture emerging environmental issues and concerns, said Prof. Oladipo. “Thus, the purpose of this National Policy on the Environment is to define a new holistic framework to guide the management of the environment and natural resources of the country.”
As a framework document, the policy prescribes sectoral and cross-sectoral strategic policy statements and actions for the management of the country’s environment for sustainable development, he said.
In addition to the existing 1991 and 1999 draft policy documents, this Policy derives its strength from the fundamental obligation for the protection of the environment as stated in section 20 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, which provides that the “State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria.” In addition, Nigeria is party to several international treaties and conventions governing environmental issues. It is on the combined thrust of these instruments that the National Policy on the Environment rests.
According to him, “Development will be meaningful if it does not increase a country’s vulnerability to environmental impacts. If a nation’s environmental foundations are depleted, its economy may well decline, its social fabric may deteriorate, and its political structure may even become destabilised.
“The environment is, however, a complex and interactive system consisting of the atmosphere, land surface and bodies of water, as well as living things. The degradation of an element of the environmental system will have positive or negative feedback effects on the others. For example, human induced increased injection of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has resulted in global warming with its consequent large variability in climate in the form of extreme weather events that are generating floods (e.g. the 2012 major flood disasters witnessed in more than half of the States of Nigeria) and massive erosion of land.
“Thus, the environment must be managed in a coherent and integrated manner through the implementation of a well formulated policy framework.”
Draft document review…
There were various groups that worked on sections of the draft document and these included: Goals, objectives and Guiding Principles; Conservation and Management of National Resources; Waste and Pollution; Emerging Issues; Cross-Sectoral Issues; and Policy Implementation.
Each of the sections subsumes issues within its purview. For instance, land degradation falls under Conservation and Management of National Resources; air quality/pollution issues are taken care of by Waste and Pollution; and Emerging Issues’ section is where climate change, urban water resources, conflict and the environment, among others.
Environment Ministry’s thoughts…
The Federal Government intends to have a single Policy on Environment to take care of all issues in the country, said the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mallam Ibrahim Usman Jibril.
The minister, who declared open the validation workshop, said the meeting was very important, because it was called “to have a national consensus on a policy framework that will guide our national response to the management of our environment. Our environment constitutes the basic foundations for human survival which we all depend on, for our needs in one form or the other, either directly or indirectly.”
Jibrin said there were clear indications of neglect of the environment and that “recent evidences point to the fact that our interaction with the environment is creating a number of serious challenges including land degradation, flooding, drought, desertification, sheet, gully and coastal erosion and loss of bio-diversity leading to the present global challenge of Climate Change. Others are poor environmental health and safety, urban waste, pollution and ozone depletion.”
He said development would be meaningless if it increased the nation’s vulnerability to environmental impacts. “If a nation’s environmental foundations are depleted, its economy may decline, its social fabric may deteriorate, and its political structure may even be affected. Today, environmental degradation has become a significant source of economic loss and stress in our lives. The major challenge is to improve our approach to the management of the environment by adopting sustainable concepts to increase productivity and livelihoods. It is also imperative that we institutionalize and strengthen capacities for sustainable environment governance in order to contribute to the achievement of economic development, security and poverty reduction in a sustainable manner.”
The government, he said recognised that unless these challenges were addressed within a coherent policy framework, it would not be positioned for the sustainability of the environment.
The review of the National Policy on the Environment, he said was significant, “as many emerging environmental issues have become the main challenges at: global, regional and national levels. One of the most important of these is climate change which already affects one of the many aspects of our national life.”
He said issues and others that would enable Nigeria to follow the path of sustainable development, “include; but not limited to: the remediation of environmental pollution, such as the Oginiland cleanup; Revitalization of the Lake Chad water resources to bring the Basin back to life for human survival, and conflict reduction; Controlling soil erosion in the southeastern parts of the country through the implementation of NEWMAP; Afforestation and Development of renewable energy, including recent Jatropha initiative.”
According to the minister, the challenges of environmental management for sustainable development in the country requires all stakeholders -individuals, non-governmental organisations, businesses, development partners and government- coming to work together in partnerships to tackle these problems. “All hands must therefore be on deck to promote the mainstreaming of environmental sustainability in our national socio-economic development process. As we thrive to validate the draft Policy, we must ensure that all existing sub-sectoral policies are subsumed into the new National Environmental Policy. This way the environmental sector will be driven by a single policy which the sub-sectors will develop their strategies from the new Policy.”
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been part of the policy formulation from the beginning and would see it through, said Pa Lamin Beyai, Country Director, UNDP, in goodwill message at the National Policy on Environment Validation meeting.
“It is my pleasure to be part of this validation meeting of the National Policy on Environment for Nigeria. UNDP is very delighted to be part of this project from its inception to date. You can count on our continuous support to see the project to its conclusion.”
Pa Lamin Beyai said the National Policy on Environment was “a guide to action in regulatory reform, programmes, and projects for environmental conservation, reviews and enactment of legislation, at the Federal, State, and Local Government levels.”
The Country Director said, “We live in a complex environment, which is a life supporting system for human survival. While a properly managed environment can be geared towards productive requirements, a poorly managed one could easily threaten human survival.
“So far, the known drivers of environmental degradation are population growth, inappropriate technology and consumption choices, and poverty. Other drivers include lack of clarity or enforcement of rights of access, and use of environmental resources. This policy becomes handy in filling that gap.
“The newly launched SDGs neatly fuses human development and sustainable development. As we go through the validation meeting today, let us pay particular attention to the various sections of the policy that would enable us achieve our desired goals. I have no doubt that, together we can promote and build a sustainable and healthy environment for our existence.”